A new year is here and with it a great time to think about your goals and resolutions for the new year! With the raising consciousness of food safety and environmental awareness, you may consider having your own backyard chicken both as pets and as a safe food source. This is a big decision as it may greatly affect your life. Here we’ve listed things to consider when making the move to raising checklists at home.
First Things First – Check the Law
It is important to make sure what your local regulation allows keeping backyard chickens. Many cities and towns throughout the US accept backyard chicken, but there are exceptions. For example, San Francisco, California allows up to four chickens with no permits required. Seattle, Washington allows residents up to eight chickens but bans all roosters. Meanwhile, Cedar Falls, Iowa does not allow any chicken keeping. Keep in mind that zoning of a city may have different regulations.
It is suggested to connect with a member of your local planning board, county clerk, or an animal control representative. Your city’s website should have the right contact information.
If your area allows backyard chickens, asking the right questions can help to draft your plan:
How many are allowed?
Are both hens and roosters allowed?
Are there any rules on building a coop?
Are there any permits required on keeping chicken and building a coop?
Who should you contact if there’s an unexpected chicken death?
While no one can stop you from having your own chickens, if your area allows you to do so, it is definitely a good idea to acquire a copy of the local ordinances and communicate with neighbors to get them on board. In the end, good neighborhood relationship will come into play at some point.
You may have heard that backyard chicken can help you save money on eggs. Unfortunately, this is only partially true. You do save the money on buying eggs but overall, you will spend more taking care of your chickens than buying eggs off shelves. After all, they require the same care as any other pets.
Here are some of the actual top benefits you can expect:
- As fresh as possible
Chickens lay eggs, and unless you can get a chicken to lay eggs directly into your heated pan, there is no other way to get fresher eggs than collecting them right from your backyard. These eggs will taste great and will rest any worries of chemicals or antibiotics because you control what goes into your chickens.
- They are great pets
Believe it or not, chickens make great pets and can be very entertaining to watch. Some people even describe their flock as “Chicken TV.” Each bird has their own personality; some being shy, sweet, or playful. Many people become very attached to their birds and more often than not they become part of your family.
- Less food wastes
Chickens don’t just eat worms and seeds. In fact, they are omnivores, and they are natural food disposers and will eat practically anything. From peels and vegetable scraps to meat and dairy, they will often eat all the food scraps if you let them. This greatly decreases on food waste and gets owners closer to zero-waste goals.
- Good gardeners
Chickens scratch around and help to clean your yard by eating insects, bugs, weeds and fallen fruit. In addition, their excrete creates excellent fertilizer. That means you don’t need chemical insecticides to minimize pest problems and can easily start making your own high-quality compost.
- Low maintenance
Chickens are independent and easy to take care of compared with other pets. They only need to be fed, watered and given a safe coop to nest in. Other than that, they don’t need too much maintenance to live well.
Things to Consider
Of course, nothing is perfect and there are always downsides. Owning animal comes with responsibilities. If you are planning to join the backyard chicken community, it is good to seriously consider and be prepared for some of the downsides.
- They talk
Besides the familiar “buck, buck, bugawk” sound, chickens talk in various sound. As time goes by, you will learn each of them has a distinct meaning, such as “I laid an egg,” “Food,” or “Danger!” Some also purr like cats when enjoying your petting. There are certain chickens that are noisier than others so do your research before you buy.
- They dig
Chickens will dig a lot in your yard in search of bugs and seeds. They will also dig a pit for a good soil bath to clean up their feathers and maintain personal hygiene. That means you will need to fence off your garden, otherwise, all your seeds and plants will end up in chicken stomachs.
- They need companions
Chickens are highly social animals and need companionship from other chickens. It is chickens’ natural behavior to bathe, eat, lay eggs, and raise chicks together. A single chicken by itself will be bored and will need extensive care and companion or it can actually die of loneliness. It’s best to get a small flock for the happiest and healthiest backyard chickens.
- They can be mean to each other
Although they need companionship, they also have their pecking order and will bully each other to maintain that order. Minor pecking is normal but severe pecking will cause injury or sometimes even death. Main reasons of severe pecking are stress, boredom, sickness, or overcrowding. Make sure you have enough room and “fun things” around to avoid any serious bullying.
- They poop
Just like all other creatures, chickens poop. However, they are not like dogs that tend have a potty area away from their playground. Instead, they poop quite a lot and they poop everywhere. That being said, their healthy poops are easy to deal with and can be composted to make great fertilizer.
Owning any animal comes with responsibilities, and its best to evaluate from all angles and understand what to expect. This is by no means a complete list of pros and cons but should give you a rough idea of the stuff to consider before starting.
As a new year resolution, raising backyard chickens may be a life changing decision that gives you peace of mind. If after consideration this is a journey you want to take, peruse our livestock section for information and products to get started raising healthy and happy chicken at home.